A long-exposure Hubble Space Telescope image shows a majestic face-on spiral galaxy located deep within the Coma Cluster of galaxies, which lies 320 million light-years away in the northern constellation Coma Berenices.
The galaxy, known as NGC 4911, contains rich lanes of dust and gas near its centre. These are silhouetted against glowing newborn star clusters and iridescent pink clouds of hydrogen, the existence of which indicates ongoing star formation. Hubble has also captured the outer spiral arms of NGC 4911, along with thousands of other galaxies of varying sizes. The high resolution of Hubble’s cameras, paired with considerably long exposures, made it possible to observe these faint details.
NGC 4911 and other spirals near the centre of the cluster are being transformed by the gravitational tug of their neighbours. In the case of NGC 4911, wispy arcs of the galaxy’s outer spiral arms are being pulled and distorted by forces from a companion galaxy (NGC 4911A), to the upper right. The resultant stripped material will eventually be dispersed throughout the core of the Coma Cluster, where it will fuel the intergalactic populations of stars and star clusters.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). Acknowledgment: K. Cook (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, USA)
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA); Acknowledgment: K. Cook (LLNL) et al.
Explanation: Why are there faint rings around this spiral galaxy? Possibly because the galaxy, NGC 4911, is being pulled at by its neighbors as it falls into the enormous Coma Cluster of Galaxies. If NGC 4911 ends up like most of the galaxies in the central Coma cluster, it will become a yellowish elliptical galaxy, losing not only its outer layers, but dust, gas, and its cadre of surrounding satellite galaxies as well. Currently, however, this process is just beginning. Visible in the above deep image from the Hubble Space Telescope are NGC 4911’s bright nucleus, distorted spiral arms laced with dark dust, clusters of recently formed stars, unusual faint outer rings, dwarf companion galaxies, and even faint globular clusters of stars. Far in the distance many unassociated galaxies from the early universe are visible, some even through NGC 4911 itself. The Coma Cluster contains over 1,000 galaxies making it among the most massive objects known. NGC 4911 can be found to the lower left of the great cluster’s center.
NGC 4911 is a spiral galaxy located deep within the Coma Cluster of galaxies, which lies 320 million light years away in the northern constellation Coma Berenices. The galaxy contains rich lanes of dust and gas near its centre. The existence of clouds of Hydrogen within the galaxy indicates ongoing star formation. This is rare for a spiral galaxy to be situated at the heart of a cluster. ~ Wikipedia
Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)